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Americans Lack Awareness About Processed Meat Health Risks, Study Finds

The word “processed” may immediately push health experts away from certain foods due to their potentially harmful effects. However, many people in the U.S. remain attracted to products that go through a series of processing and contain a number of artificial chemicals. 

A new study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shows that processed meat is still part of the diet of most American adults. People still prefer eating red meat and poultry that were “transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or with the addition of chemical preservatives.”

Luncheon meat, sausage, hot dogs, ham and bacon are among the top processed meats being consumed by Americans at present, MarketWatch reported Monday. However, people today consume less unprocessed red meat. 

The findings come from the analysis of the health of nearly 44,000 adults aged 20 and older. The researchers collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that occured between 1999 and 2016.

Fang Fang Zhang, study co-author and an associate professor at Tufts University, said the lack of awareness of the potential harmful effects of eating processed meats contribute to the continued consumption of the products. She added that social, economic and cultural forces may also affect a person’s food choices. 

“Our findings support further actions to increase the public awareness of the health risks associated with high processed meat consumption in the U.S.,” Zhang said in a statement.

Bad Effects of Processed Meat

Diets with high amounts of processed meat have long been associated to increased risk of having a heart disease and diabetes. The World Health Organization also noted that such products could potentially lead to cancer.

The organization said that it found “sufficient evidence” that processed meat contributes to the development of colorectal cancer in humans. In 2017, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research issued a statement confirming WHO’s discovery of the link between the disease and processed red meat.

“Findings of this study can inform public health policy priorities for improving diet and reducing chronic disease burden in the U.S.,” Zhang said. “Because stores and fast-food restaurants are main purchase locations for processed meat, future policies may prioritize these as primary sites of intervention for reducing processed meat consumption among U.S. adults.”

Sausages The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service recalled over 95,000 pounds of Johnsonville jalapeño cheddar smoked sausages for plastic contamination. Pixabay

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